• Northern Ethiopia tour simien eco tours

Northern Ethiopia Experience

Enjoy Ethiopia’s highlights with time. This trip is and extended version of our short itinerary for those who have more time for a more in depth view on Ethiopia’s people and culture. The North is rich in historical sites within a setting of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. This tour combines the highlights of Northern Ethiopia including the UNESCO World Heritages at Gondar, Axum and Lalibela and the naturally spectacular Simien Mountains National Park.

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Accompanied by one of our experienced SimienEcoTours guides (English, Italian, Spanish, French & German available) you will visit Ethiopia’s Northern historic and nature sights. After visiting Ethiopia’s historic capital of Gondar with its 17th century castles, you will go for walks in Ethiopia’s highest mountain range and discover on a day trip its eastern steep cliffs, mountains and wildlife. Move on to see mythical rock-hewn churches in Lalibela carved out solid rock and set off for a hiking day in the stunning surrounding Lasta Mountains. Discover the ruins of the first great civilisation in East Africa in the city of Axum. And finally, in Gheralta region you will be blown away by the “Arizona” of Ethiopia with its towering red sandstone mountains where rock-hewn churches are hidden in the ostensively unreachable hilltops and your second day there will bring you to some of the hidden treasures of Ethiopian Christianity.

Overnights are spent in wisely selected and mainly beautifully located mid-range to high-range hotels and lodges. Upgrades to more atmospheric lodges in some destinations are possible and highlighted in the itinerary. Talk to our Travel Experts.

Tour code: CU06

Operator: SimienEcoTours

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Itinerary & In/Exclusions

Day 1

Discover the capital Addis Ababa

Travel: 1 h, 30 km

After your arrival & immigration you will meet with your guide at the airport and you will be transferred to your hotel/lodge for some refreshment. Depending on your arrival time your guide will go on a city tour through Ethiopia’s vibrant and lively capital. In the National Museum you can discover the cradle of mankind where the skeleton of “Lucy” is kept. Entoto Mountain with its Eucalyptus forest is a nice short escape out of town to see Mariyam Church and Menelik Palace the place where the Emperors resided. Others might enjoy one of the city’s weekly markets. You can choose your itinerary with your guide.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Zeist Lodge or similar (check-in after 12pm), Addis Ababa

Day 2

Coffee forests & historic monasteries at Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 1 h, 30 km

Hiking: 1 h, 2 km (difficulty: easy, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓100m)

A domestic flight will bring you to the lake town of Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is the biggest lake of the country and its tropical setting is the perfect escape to start you boat cruise, do some bird watching to finally reach Zeghe Peninsula, where 700 years old monasteries are hidden in the thickets of a coffee forest. Discover this nature’s beauty and its cultural heritage before you return back by boat to town to your lodge.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 3

The Awura Amba Community - a moving experience

Travel: 3-4 h, 200 km

This morning you will drive to the ancient capital of Gondar with a stopover in the Awura Amba Community Project. About 500 people live here in a community that has renounced their faith in order to be happy together. You will get to know Zumra Nuru, the founder of the community, and visit the old people's home, the weaving mill, the library and the school of the village. Awura Amba is a cooperative project with a moving and poor past, which has now worked its way up to a certain level of prosperity. A prosperity that is not always viewed kindly by the neighbouring villages. An exciting stopover that will raise many questions. Along the eastern shore of Lake Tana, you will travel through the Tara Gedam Mountains and their forests, then continue in the afternoon towards Gondar, often referred to as the 'Camelot of Ethiopia'.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters or similar, Gondar

Day 4

The Camelot of Ethiopia - the castles in Gondar

Gondar’s 17th century castles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. You will visit the Royal Enclosure with its 5 palaces and then move on to the Debre Birhan Selassie Church (Church of the Holy Trinity) which interior is beautifully decorated with 17th century religious paintings. Truly one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters or similar, Gondar

Day 5

The Simien Mountains National Park

Travel: 3-4 h; 130 km

Hiking: 2 h, 4 km (difficulty: easy/moderate, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓150m)

This morning you will continue our journey into the impressive Simien Mountains. The National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site was established to protect endemic animals such as the Walia Ibex wild mountain goats, Ethiopian Wolf, Blood-breasted Baboons and several bird species such as the Thick billed Raven and the Bearded Vulture. The roof of Africa is also home to the highest mountain in Ethiopia - Ras Dashen, at almost 4,550 metres. On easy walks you will discover changing and overwhelming landscapes, endless views and rugged cliffs at striking vantage points. You will also get to know the already rare afro-alpine flora with juniper, St. John's wort and heather, Kniepofia, tree heather species and the Kosso tree. Overnight in a lodge inside the National Park.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge or similar, Simien Mountains National Park

Day 6

Further excursion day and fine lodging in the Simiens

Travel: 3-4 h; 80 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 6 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓450m)

Today you have the time to drive deeper into the National Nark. Along the track there are always beautiful viewpoints as well as the Jinbar Waterfall, which plunges over 400 meters into the depth. You will also take a hike off the road to the 4.200 meter high Bwahit viewpoint. If you are lucky, you will also be able to observe the park's wildlife more closely today. At the resting place in Chenek you often meet the rare Walia Ibex, the Ethiopian Capricorn.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge or similar, Simien Mountains National Park

Day 7

Domestic flight to Lalibela

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 4-5h; 160 km

You will return back to Gondar for you domestic flight to the holy city of Lalibela (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Its 12th century eleven rock-hewn churches are truly mysterious as they are chiselled out of solid rock. Legends claim this miracle as the work of angels. You arrive at Lalibela town in the late afternoon for your check in at the hotel. On the way from the airport to town you will have the chance to enjoy views of the Lasta mountains and your guide will show you the Neakto Laab Church out of town which was build inside a cave where holy water drops down from the cliff. Its forest is also a beautiful spot to rest and do some bird watching.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Cliff Edge Hotel or similar, Lalibela

Day 8

The masterpieces of Lalibela - its eleven rock churches

Today you are entering the heart of the holy city. On your guided personal tour you walk though the labyrinths of trenches and tunnels to discover the eleven rock churches of Lalibela. Beta Medane Alem (“Church of the World Saviour”) and Beta Gyorgis (“St. Geogre Church”) are architectural masterpieces counting among the biggest rock churches in Ethiopia. Beta Mariam (“Church of St. Mary”) with its beautifull painted interior and its frescoes is not less impressive as the churches of the southern cluster which used to be an old fortress with narrow confusing pathways. You will have a full day to discover these churches in its details before your sunset dinner will be with splendid views in the Lasta Mountains.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Cliff Edge Hotel or similar, Lalibela

Day 9

Discover Lalibela's sourrounding mountains scapes

Travel: 2h; 30 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 8 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑300m, ↓400m)

Mount Asheton (3,300 masl) has been towering over the city of Lalibela during the last days of your stay. Today it is time to get closer to this beautiful mountain and depart for a panoramic hike along its base and visit the close by rock church of Asheton Mariam and its parchments, 800 years old manuscripts written on goat skin.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Cliff Edge Hotel or similar, Lalibela

Day 10

An ancient Empire comes back to life

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 2 h; 40 km

Today's domestic flight takes you to the ancient capital of the legendary Axumite Empire (1st century BC to 9th century AD). Axum was once a very rich and powerful city at the crossroads of important ancient trade routes in a fertile and forested region. Today it conveys a rather rural picture, it is dry, hot and dusty. However, its sights are listed as UNESCO World Heritage and among the main attractions of Ethiopia, with many archaeological secrets still waiting to be explored.

You will visit the ruins and monuments of the Axumite Empire with its stelae which served as graves of the ancient kings. The adjoining archeological museum displays an extensive collection of artefacts from the graves under the stelae. 

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Yared Zema Hotel or similar, Axum

Day 11

Towering volcanic landscapes around Adwa

Travel: 3-4 h; 180 km

You leave Axum eastwards and pass the Adwa Mountains before you reach your next stop - the picturesque village of Yeha, situated at the foot of the Adwa Mountains. This pre-Christian settlement was founded around 700 BC by immigrants from southern Arabia. The Temple of the Moon - the oldest preserved monument from the pre-Axumite period - was built without mortar. The journey continues along narrow serpentines with deep valleys. The typical rectangular stone houses of the Tigray are omnipresent along the way. In the afternoon, you will reach the picturesque Gheralta region near the village of Hawzen, with fantastic views of the sandstone massifs rising out of the flat landscape.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge or similar, Hawzen

Day 12

The sandstone landscapes and old churches of Gheralta

Travel: 1-2 h; 30 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 8 km (difficulty: moderate/medium, altitude difference: ↑350m, ↓350m)

After your breakfast you will start a steep hike up the Gheralta Mountain to enjoy panoramic views from its top and the colorfully painted Mariam Korkor Church. You are flexible to choose easier hikes as well: Discuss with your guide if a hike though the flat Papaseti Valley with its nice Mariam Papaseti Church might be the better alternative for the less fit among you.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge or similar, Hawzen

Day 13

The archeological museum in Wukro

Flight time: 1,5 h

Travel: 3-4 h; 120 km

On a short drive through epic landscapes you will be transferred to the airport in Mekelle. On your way lies the well sorted archeological museum of Wukro which will give you an overview of the pre-axumite times in Ethiopia (7th century to 1st century BC). One of its spectacular artefacts is an almost completely preserved 2.500 years old sacrificial altar. A domestic flight will take you then back to the capital of Addis Ababa. After a nice traditional farewell dinner until your driver will transfer you to the airport.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: ---

Included

Our services include:
  • all (4) domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa-Bahir Dar, Gondar-Lalibela, Lalibela-Axum, Mekelle-Addis Ababa), Note: If the international flight is with a carrier other than Ethiopian Airlines, there will be a supplement of US$ 320 for the domestic flights;
  • all accommodations in double rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges (4x high-range, 8x mid-range);
  • all transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private car (minivan & 4x4);
  • boat cruise on Lake Tana;
  • full board (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks excluded);
  • all entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks;
  • all persons for safety and security (when prescribed);
  • all tips for meals;
  • all (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations;
  • all taxes and administrative fees;
  • 24/7 emergency assistance;
  • experienced SimienEcoTours Tour Guide (fluently English & Amharic speaking), other language guide on request with surcharge.

Excluded

Our services do not include:
  • international flights;
  • travel insurance;
  • visa for Ethiopia (currently US$ 52);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tips;
  • photo and video fees (if applicable);
  • all extras and personal expenses.